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What is a web scraping?

Web scraping, web harvesting, or web data extraction is data scraping used for extracting data from websites. Web scraping software may access the World Wide Web directly using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or through a web browser. While web scraping can be done manually by a software user, the term typically refers to automated processes implemented using a bot or web crawler. It is a form of copying, in which specific data is gathered and copied from the web, typically into a central local database or spreadsheet, for later retrieval or analysis.

Web scraping a web page involves fetching it and extracting from it. Fetching is the downloading of a page (which a browser does when you view the page). Therefore, web crawling is a main component of web scraping, to fetch pages for later processing. Once fetched, then extraction can take place. The content of a page may be parsed, searched, reformatted, its data copied into a spreadsheet, and so on. Web scrapers typically take something out of a page, to make use of it for another purpose somewhere else. An example would be to find and copy names and phone numbers, or companies and their URLs, to a list (contact scraping).

 

What you can do with data scraping?

Web scraping is used for content scraping, and as a component of applications used for web indexing, web mining and data mining, online price change monitoring and price comparison, product review scraping (to watch the competition), gathering real estate listings, weather data monitoring, website change detection, research, tracking online presence and reputation, web mashup and, web data integration.

Using data scraping you can build sitemaps that will navigate the site and extract the data. Using different type selectors you will navigate the site and extract multiple types of data - text, tables, images, links and more.

 

What role scraper should play for you?

Web scraping is the process of automatically mining data or collecting information from the World Wide Web. It is a field with active developments sharing a common goal with the semantic web vision, an ambitious initiative that still requires breakthroughs in text processing, semantic understanding, artificial intelligence and human-computer interactions. Current web scraping solutions range from the ad-hoc, requiring human effort, to fully automated systems that are able to convert entire web sites into structured information, with limitations.

 

Below are the ways for scraping data:

  • Human Copy Paste : Sometimes even the best web-scraping technology cannot replace a human’s manual examination and copy-and-paste, and sometimes this may be the only workable solution when the websites for scraping explicitly set up barriers to prevent machine automation.
  • Text Pattern Matching : A simple yet powerful approach to extract information from web pages can be based on the UNIX grep command or regular expression-matching facilities of programming languages
  • HTTP programming : Static and dynamic web pages can be retrieved by posting HTTP requests to the remote web server using socket programming.
  • HTML parsing : Many websites have large collections of pages generated dynamically from an underlying structured source like a database. Data of the same category are typically encoded into similar pages by a common script or template. In data mining, a program that detects such templates in a particular information source, extracts its content and translates it into a relational form, is called a wrapper. Wrapper generation algorithms assume that input pages of a wrapper induction system conform to a common template and that they can be easily identified in terms of a URL common scheme.Moreover, some semi-structured data query languages, such as Xquery and the HTQL, can be used to parse HTML pages and to retrieve and transform page content.
  • DOM parsing: By embedding a full-fledged web browser, such as the Internet Explorer or the Mozilla browser control, programs can retrieve the dynamic content generated by client-side scripts. These browser controls also parse web pages into a DOM tree, based on which programs can retrieve parts of the pages.
  • Vertical aggregation : There are several companies that have developed vertical specific harvesting platforms. These platforms create and monitor a multitude of “bots” for specific verticals with no "man in the loop" (no direct human involvement), and no work related to a specific target site. The preparation involves establishing the knowledge base for the entire vertical and then the platform creates the bots automatically. The platform's robustness is measured by the quality of the information it retrieves (usually number of fields) and its scalability (how quick it can scale up to hundreds or thousands of sites). This scalability is mostly used to target the Long Tail of sites that common aggregators find complicated or too labor-intensive to harvest content from.
  • Semantic annotation recognizing : The pages being scraped may embrace metadata or semantic markups and annotations, which can be used to locate specific data snippets. If the annotations are embedded in the pages, as Microformat does, this technique can be viewed as a special case of DOM parsing. In another case, the annotations, organized into a semantic layer,are stored and managed separately from the web pages, so the scrapers can retrieve data schema and instructions from this layer before scraping the pages.
  • Computer vision web-page analysis : There are efforts using machine learning and computer vision that attempt to identify and extract information from web pages by interpreting pages visually as a human being would.

 

Key Features of Web Scraping

In order to remain competitive, businesses must be able to act quickly and assuredly in the markets. Web Scraping plays a big role in the development of various business organizations that use the services. 

The benefits of these services are: 

  1. Low Cost: Web Scraping service saves hundreds of thousands of man-hours and money as the use of scraping service completely avoids manual work.
  2. Less Time: Scraping solution not only helps to lower the cost, it also reduces the time involved in data extraction task. This tool ensures and gathers fast results required by people.
  3. Accurate Results: Web Scraping solutions help to get the most accurate and fast results that cannot be collected by human beings. It generates correct product pricing data, sales leads, duplication of online database, captures real estate data, financial data, job postings, auction information and many more.
  4. Time to Market Advantage: Fast and accurate results help businesses to save time, money and labor and get an obvious time-tomarket advantage over the competitors.
  5. High Quality: A Web Scraping solution provides access to clean, structured and high quality data through scraping APIs so that the fresh data can be integrated into the systems.

Finding and hiring expert scraper/crawler

It’s important to note that not all scraper will be ideal fits for every project. For example, those with highly analytical backgrounds in software engineering would be ideal for developing algorithms but may not be the right fit for a data scraping project. That’s why it’s so important to understand what type of scraping expert will bring the most benefit to your company and business goals.

Here are some questions to consider:

What is the overall learning you hope to find? 

By including your goal in the project description, it allows professionals to better understand what type of work is required.

 

What core skills will scraping experts need to complete the project? 

The answer will revolve around your current data infrastructure and the processes used to extract information.

 

Would you benefit from someone with highly specialized skills in a few areas of data scraping, or would a well-rounded expert serve you better?

 

Are there any time constraints to consider with this project?

Let professionals know the amount of hours of work that might be involved.

 

What kind of budget will this project have? 

The more experience and expertise a data scraper has, the higher they expect to be compensated. Higher budgets will more likely give top-tier experts a reason to submit a proposal.

 

Web scraping project template

Below is a sample of how a project description may look. Keep in mind that many people use the term “job description,” but a full job description is only needed for employees. When engaging a freelancer as an independent contractor, you typically just need a statement of work, job post, or any other document that describes the work to be done.

<Job/Project Title>

ABC Company is looking for a web scraping expert to help us study our website traffic patterns and find areas of improvement. This project is estimated to require approximately 20-25 hours per week for the next few months to achieve the following goals

  • Reporting findings in a weekly summary
  • Split testing underperforming pages and recording results
  • Discovering which pages currently perform best
  • Organizing site data into spreadsheets

The following skills are required:

The ideal freelancer will be a creative problem solver with an excellent work history on Toogit. To submit a proposal, please send a short summary of similar projects you’ve completed and why we should consider you for this project.

  • Excellent technical abilities
  • Knowledge of quantitative split testing
  • Experience with WordPress and Google Analytics
  • A thorough understanding of MySQL databases
  • Expertise or extensive experience with Python

 

Hiring the right Web Scraping talent

Remember that technical ability is only a small portion of what makes an excellent web scraper. Great web scrapers are inquisitive—they want to ensure that they’re seeking the right types of answers, plus they’ll take an interest in your business to better understand it. The ideal professional will also be able to advise you on additional metrics to analyze and compare in order to help you meet your goals.

Also, keep in mind that communication is always a key consideration in the data science field. A brief interview can allow you to gauge how strong each professional is in expressing ideas and explaining their process. The more you speak to each professional by phone, email, or chat, the better you’ll be able to gauge their professionalism and communication skills and determine whether they’re right for your project.

The importance of extracting information from the web is becoming increasingly loud and clear. Every few weeks, I realize myself in a situation where we need to extract information from the web to create a machine learning model. We have to pull or extract a large amount of information from websites and we would like to do it as quickly as possible. How would we do it without manually going to every web site and getting the data? Web Scraping simply makes this job easier and faster.

Why is web scraping needed?

Web scraping is used to collect large information from websites. But why does someone have to collect such large data from websites? Let’s look at the applications of web scraping: 

  1. Price Comparison: Services such as ParseHub use web scraping to collect data from online shopping websites and use it to compare the prices of products.
  2. Social Media Scraping: Web scraping is used to collect data from Social Media websites such as Twitter to find out what’s trending.
  3. Email address gathering: Many companies that use email as a medium for marketing, use web scraping to collect email ID and then send bulk emails.
  4. Research and Development: Web scraping is used to collect a large set of data (Statistics, General Information, Temperature, etc.) from websites, which are analyzed and used to carry out Surveys or for R&D.
  5. Job listings: Details regarding job openings, interviews are collected from different websites and then listed in one place so that it is easily accessible to the user.

 

Web scraping is an automated method used to extract large amounts of data from websites. The data on the websites are unstructured. Web scraping helps collect these unstructured data and store it in a structured form. There are different ways to scrape websites such as online Services, APIs or writing your own code.

Why Python is best for Web Scraping

Features of Python which makes it more suitable for web scraping:

  1. Ease of Use: Python is simple to code. You do not have to add semi-colons “;” or curly-braces “{}” anywhere. This makes it less messy and easy to use.
  2. Large Collection of Libraries: Python has a huge collection of libraries such as Numpy, Matlplotlib, Pandas etc., which provides methods and services for various purposes. Hence, it is suitable for web scraping and for further manipulation of extracted data.
  3. Dynamically typed: In Python, you don’t have to define datatypes for variables, you can directly use the variables wherever required. This saves time and makes your job faster.
  4. Easily Understandable Syntax: Python syntax is easily understandable mainly because reading a Python code is very similar to reading a statement in English. It is expressive and easily readable, and the indentation used in Python also helps the user to differentiate between different scope/blocks in the code.
  5. Small code, large task: Web scraping is used to save time. But what’s the use if you spend more time writing the code? Well, you don’t have to. In Python, you can write small codes to do large tasks. Hence, you save time even while writing the code.
  6. Community: What if you get stuck while writing the code? You don’t have to worry. Python community has one of the biggest and most active communities, where you can seek help from.

How does web scraping work

To extract data using web scraping with python, you need to follow these basic steps:

  1. Find the URL that you want to scrape
  2. Inspecting the Page
  3. Find the data you want to extract
  4. Write the code
  5. Run the code and extract the data
  6. Store the data in the required format

Example: Scraping a website to get product details

Pre-requisite:

  • Python 2.x or Python 3.x
  • Selenium Library
  • BeautifulSoup Library
  • Pandas Library
  1. We are going scrape online shopping website to extract the Price, Name, and rating of products, go to products URL
  2. The data is usually nested in tags. So, we inspect the page to examine, under which tag the information we would like to scrape is nested. To inspect the page, just right click on the element and click on “Inspect”. When you click on the “Inspect” tab, you will see a “Browser Inspector Box” open.
  3. Let’s extract the Price, Name, and Rating which is nested in the “div” tag respectively.
  4. Write code:

#Let us import all the necessary libraries

from selenium import webdriver

from BeautifulSoup import BeautifulSoup

import pandas as pd

driver = webdriver.Chrome("/usr/lib/chromium-browser/chromedriver")

products=[] #List to store name of the product

prices=[] #List to store price of the product

ratings=[] #List to store rating of the product

driver.get("Product_URL")

content = driver.page_source

soup = BeautifulSoup(content)

for a in soup.findAll('a',href=True, attrs={'class':'.…'}):

name=a.find('div', attrs={'class': '….'})

price=a.find('div', attrs={'class':'….'})

rating=a.find('div', attrs={'class':'….'})

products.append(name.text)

ratings.append(rating.text)

df = pd.DataFrame({'Product Name':products,'Price':prices,'Rating':ratings})

df.to_csv('products.csv', index=False, encoding='utf-8')

 

To run the code, a file name “products.csv” is created and this file contains the extracted data.

PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Pre-processor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML.

PHP is one of the main languages used in dynamic web development. It’s one of the oldest language and a common component in the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). If you want to create a website or any back-end web service, PHP is one of the main languages you can choose from. If you need revisions to an existing application that runs on a Linux server, it’s common for the back-end coding to be done with PHP.

About PHP Developers

PHP developers are often simply called “back-end engineers.” A PHP developer is responsible for writing server-side web application logic. PHP developers usually develop back-end components, connect the application with the other (often third-party) web services, and support the front-end developers by integrating their work with the application.

They’re turn client’s specifications into a workable, tangible product that runs on a web server. Although PHP can run in a Windows environment, it’s more commonly used on Linux servers with Apache running as the web client. Many PHP developers package their applications this way with Linux and Apache to make it easier for the client to host it.

PHP developers code the functionality and brings an app to life. Collaborating with designers, they ensure that the front-end application is appealing to users. You may find that some PHP developers have front-end design skills, but often times, they work with UI and UX designers to create a user interface that’s engaging and supported by solid back-end functionality.

What Can You Expect from a PHP Developer?

It is a PHP Developer's job to write, test and maintain the code for web pages and computer graphics programs. They use PHP, a widely used scripting language, to build websites, programs and applications that computers follow to perform functions. They are also responsible for writing, troubleshooting, testing and maintaining the source code for computer programs. If needed, PHP Developers also assist team members in problem solving.

A PHP developer should be able to visualize your application and what you need based on your conversations and documentation (if you have any). They should be able to understand your business so that they can provide you with an application that supports your goals and business logic.

PHP developers mainly create two types of applications: web apps with a database background, and APIs that provide your existing software and data to mobile apps and other developers. PHP code powers the back end of a web app, so a PHP developer will design and architect your code and the way it works to support the front end. APIs are often used when developers or apps need to query your internal data, and they allow you to provide this data to the outside world. For instance, your app might pull a list of tweets from Twitter’s API. A PHP developer will read the API documentation and implement it into your website. APIs are also used with some mobile apps to power the app’s data services.

Deliverables could be full source code files, or some developers help you upload the code to your web server of your choice choice. If you’re building a website from scratch, it’s vital that you choose a developer with the skills necessary to tackle a project from the ground up. A senior-level developer will know how to manage a project (they might assign a project manager), set expectations, estimate costs, and give you organized, scalable code that you can work with for years.

Just like other development areas, PHP developers have a variety of skill sets and levels. Senior-level PHP experts often have several other languages in their arsenal. They should be able to design a full application from the ground up. Junior-level developers have a few years of experience, but they often need to work with, or have their work reviewed by, a senior-level developer to ensure that code is efficient and properly written.

Defining Your Project

A developer can only do as good of a job as the specifications or information they get from the client. Communication is key so that your PHP developer fully understands your concepts and goals. When you post a project, you must be able to communicate key elements so that you can get the best estimates from the best developers.

Before you post a project request or talk to developers, you should sit down and map out your idea. This can be done using images, presentations, or other types of documentation. For instance, you can draw your own wireframes and then explain each concept in writing. Developers bidding on your project can get a better idea of what needs to be done and estimate far more accurately.

It can be difficult for a client to understand the duration of a project and its cost, but a developer can sit down and discuss project scope, a reasonable timeline, and any deliverables that you can expect during the project’s development process.

Writing a Project Description

Once you know what you want from your end product, it’s time to write your project description. You need to be concise but provide enough detail to attract top developers. You can attach documents and provide video links to your project description to help developers better understand your goals.

Below is one sample of how a PHP project description may look. Keep in mind that many people use the term “job description,” but a full job description is only needed for employees. When engaging a freelancer as an independent contractor, you typically just need a statement of work, job post, or any other document that describes the work to be done.

Title: PHP Developer Needed to Build E-Commerce Website

Description: We need a PHP developer to build an e-commerce platform for our website. We have a rough wireframe document that explains the front end and the back end. We need help determining back-end architecture, so we want a developer to determine the way it will be built. We currently have hosting and need help uploading the code after it’s finished. The e-commerce store will host our product catalogue, take orders, allow customers to sign up, and then send email reminders to customers that left products in their shopping cart.

You can modify this description to better fit what you’re looking for, but it gives the basic requirements that a PHP development project might have.

PHP projects can take a long time, so expect a big project to take several months. PHP projects may require sit-downs to understand your requirements, design, coding, prototyping, and testing. All of these extend the deadline and can require several months for larger projects. A developer might even add a small percentage of time to the duration to ensure that deadlines are met. As with any project, the more descriptive your post is and the more you communicate with your programmer, the smoother the process will be.

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